Editing Brain vs. Creative Brain


The Heart and Craft of Writing


Lesson Info

Editing Brain vs. Creative Brain

Let's talk a little bit about the editing brain versus the creative brain. For me, the impulse to write and the impulse to edit come from really, really different parts of my brain. And like I said, even though I've managed to write a lot, I don't have a lot of discipline and that is because when I sit down, I'm just like editing brain, you're done. My editing brain isn't that strong to begin with, so it's easier for me than it might be for you. But I've really learned that when I hit these points in my writing where I'm like ugh, I'm not saying that right, that's not right. If I sit there too long thinking about it, I'm done for. It's just like a short trip between that and me getting up and walking away, and looking for a snack and being done for the day. So, what I've learned is that those places where I don't really know if it's right or not, I just let it be. It's the shitty first draft, it's a place holder. Throw a cliche up there, just let it hold that place for you so that when...

you go back and you have your editing brain on and you're not creating, you're job is to just pick through and nit pick through and be like no, yes, no, yes, no, yes. I think that that's really, really helpful. Just really designate different time for writing and for editing. That said, when I sit down to write, I usually do pass through very lightly what I've written previously to kinda familiarize myself with where I am in my story. I don't know about you guys, but sometimes when I write, I feel like I'm in a fugue state. I'm like who wrote that? I don't even remember writing that. So, it's really helpful for me to go back and be like okay, I was doing that, okay. And sometimes the impulse comes out right then to do a little tinkering, and if it's easy and it's right there, do it. It's that sitting and really pondering and getting yourself out of your writing flow that you always wanna be on guard against. So, you wanna just know what kinda things will kind of kick you out of your zone, and for me, it's editing. So, just make different times to edit. And I know that this is a harder practice for some people than for other people, because some of you probably have really strong editing brains. That's your temperament. You're just editors. That's awesome. Your books will probably be really awesome for that. You just wanna do it at a separate time. You don't wanna be that guy. (laughing) You don't wanna be him. You don't wanna be smoking, first of all. Don't smoke. There's this whole myth about writers and our vices, these amazing vices that we get to have because we're writers, and our life is harder than other people, and we need these vices to kind of like summon the muse or whatever. But I don't know of a single vice that has not eventually bitten a writer on the butt, even though it might've worked for a little while. I used to drink when I wrote, and it was very helpful because it's very hard to sit with your writing. It's just hard sometimes just to sit there. I thought I really loved writing, but actually just liked drinking beer and smoking, so I would sit and drink beer and smoke, and I'd be like and write and write and write. And it was great until it stopped working, and then, I had to relearn how to sit without drinking and smoking. If it's working for you right now, good for you, I guess. But, just be prepared for it to betray you. It probably will. (laughing) This is a practice, like so much of writing it's a practice. You can listen to what I'm saying, go yeah, that makes sense to me and you're gonna go home, and you're gonna sit down and you're gonna write and you're gonna say I'm not gonna edit, I'm gonna do that at a different time and then you're gonna find yourself stuck, agonizing over what is that word, what is that word. It's a practice. Just catch yourself in it, and keep going. That's what I have found works for me around that. I love this so much. Our little writer's brains. This is Linda Berry, one of my favorites. Isn't that just like your brain when you're writing? I have worked really closely with writers. I did a writer's retreat for a while that I managed. And the place where all the writers stayed while we were working together was very close quarters. We were all up on top of each other. And we had these writing hours. Everyone had to be quiet and work, and then when they were over, the writers would just emerge like zombies, just I don't know if you guys live with people who have to see you after you've been writing and they're like what? Are you okay? 'Cause you look like a creep. You have weird, creepy vibes. You've been in your psyche. So yeah, we go really deep into some weird deep place when we write and a lot of stuff comes up. And it's really, really important to have a plan or some sort of practice for how do you deal with the low self-esteem, the self doubt, the feelings of like what am I doing with my life that come up when you're working on your work.

Class Description

If you’ve embarked on the process of writing your first book, there’s a good chance that you’re struggling a bit. Books are big, unwieldy creatures, and even the bravest of among us can feel overwhelmed by the thought of filling all those hundreds of blank pages with intelligent, effervescent words.

Award-winning author, editor and teacher Michelle Tea offers this class to help you believe in your abilities as a writer, stick to your goal and push through that first draft. She’ll outline some of the key tricks to writing a great book and inspire you to produce the vibrant, sparkling and unique work that’s inside your head and waiting to come out.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Be specific and avoid vagueness.
  • Bring your five senses to your writing by including sound, light, scent, texture and taste in every scene.
  • Find your pacing: write slow, write strong.
  • Show, don’t tell.
  • Build your unique voice and create a shelf of voices you wish your voice to be in conversation with.
  • Keep your editing brain away from your creative brain.



What a wonderful class! Michelle is knowledgeable, authentic, generous and open-hearted with her experience and advice. She offers a genuine sense of validation and practical tips for new writers. I especially liked her thoughts on how to carve out a space for your writing.